Students urge board of trustees to divest with little movement from the board

Students+protest+silently+during+a+board+of+trustees+meeting+in+Livak+Ballroom%2C+Oct.+26.+The+meeting+was+one+of+several+that+took+place+over+the+course+of+Oct.+25-26.
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Students urge board of trustees to divest with little movement from the board

Students protest silently during a board of trustees meeting in Livak Ballroom, Oct. 26. The meeting was one of several that took place over the course of Oct. 25-26.

Students protest silently during a board of trustees meeting in Livak Ballroom, Oct. 26. The meeting was one of several that took place over the course of Oct. 25-26.

MAC MANSFIELD-PARISI/Vermont Cynic

Students protest silently during a board of trustees meeting in Livak Ballroom, Oct. 26. The meeting was one of several that took place over the course of Oct. 25-26.

MAC MANSFIELD-PARISI/Vermont Cynic

MAC MANSFIELD-PARISI/Vermont Cynic

Students protest silently during a board of trustees meeting in Livak Ballroom, Oct. 26. The meeting was one of several that took place over the course of Oct. 25-26.

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More than 50 students filled the last session of the board of trustees to make their voices heard.

The students occupied all the seats in Livak Ballroom, leaving standing room only. They lined the walls of the room with signs.

One student’s sign read, “We are all accountable.”

Students from the group Organize, an environmental group focused on pushing UVM to divest from fossil fuels took advantage of the period of public comment Oct. 26 to express why they think UVM should divest.

However, in a meeting Oct. 25, the board said UVM will not divest.

Despite calls from students, the board has historically refused to divest from fossil fuels.
Senior Emil Assing, a member of Organize said that it is a shame UVM has done a lot of environmental research, but won’t divest.

“UVM produces some of the most cutting edge advances and forward-thinking environmental research in the world,” Assing said. “It’s a shame to me that we have not followed our own advice about the danger of fossil fuels and the renewable future that lies ahead.”

Ron Lumbra, vice chair of the board, lead the meeting and said he was impressed by the behavior and professionalism of the students.

“One hundred percent of the board respects the people that have come in and admire how they presented this, and that’s why you’re seeing such an engaged dialogue,” Lumbra said.

Divestment is unpredictable, so it is still a process, Lumbra said. Groups will continue the dialogue and conversation will happen, he said.

Assing, sophomores Sarah Sciortino, Betsy McGavisk ‘19 and senior Christopher Harrell spoke directly to the board, while other members of Organize watched, with signs in hand.

“As of last night, we have 2,076 signatures and counting on our petition for UVM to divest, all gathered over the last five weeks,” Sciortino said.

Sciortino also spoke about how divesting could help the University’s reputation for prospective students.

“We also talk a lot about how students come here for the green reputation of our University, and that’s why most of us came here,” Sciortino said. “As the media reports more and more about how we have not divested, it will draw people away from UVM. It is in their best interest to do so.”

UVM President Suresh Garimella was at the meeting. Garimella said he doesn’t have direct control over UVM’s investments in fossil fuels but was proud of how students conducted themselves.

“I am very proud of UVM students. They showed us how to professionally make their points,” he said. “We are happy to have the students convey their collective thoughts professionally, and I know that they are doing that… I just applaud them.”

Junior Olivia Vought, a student at the event, said in order for UVM to keep its green reputation, they must divest.

“A large reason I came to UVM was because of their extremely progressive advertising, and my feeling was that they were really aligned with my progressive agenda,” Vought said. “I feel like they are doing a lot of greenwashing marketing and that their marketing doesn’t align with their actual beliefs.”

Junior Matt Voss, who is on the officer team for Organize, said he hopes to keep the momentum going towards divesting.

“We are gonna keep it rolling. That’s the main thing,” Voss said. “We just want to keep the energy going. There isn’t a board meeting for a couple of months, so we want to make as much change happen and bring the whole University into the movement.”

Editor’s note: Junior Christopher Harrell is an Opinion Columnist for The Vermont Cynic.